Tobacco Info

From Tobacco Info No. 7 - October 2011
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5.9 million Canadians aged 12 years and older smoke

Smoking prevalence stagnates

According to the data contained in Statistics Canada’s Canadian Community Health Survey (CCHS) released in June, the smoking prevalence in the Canadian population aged 12 years and older rose from 20.1% in 2009 to 20.8% in 2010, a statistically insignificant increase. 

However, in a growing population, this means that there are approximately 237,000 more smokers among Canadians in 2010 than in 2009.  It also means that the numerous smokers who died or have quit in a year were more than replaced by new smokers.

BC is still leading

Three Canadian provinces and territories have smoking rates lower than the national average (20.8%):  British Columbia (17.4%), Manitoba (18.8%) and Ontario (19.3%).  British Columbia has always recorded the lowest prevalence in the country since the CCHS was introduced in 2003.  With 54.4% of its population aged 12 years and older who smoked in 2010, Nunavut is hardest hit by the tobacco epidemic and still has the greatest obstacle to overcome.

Faces of active smoking

In 2010, as usual, male smokers were proportionately more common in all age groups than their female counterparts.

In the same year, among women aged 12 years and older, 17.4% smoked daily or occasionally.  This is the lowest percentage since the inception of the CCHS, when it was 21.0%.

Among men, the smoking rate was 25.1% in 2003.  It rose from 22.6 to 24.2% between 2009 and 2010, a statistically significant change, according to Statistics Canada.

In 2010, predictably, the highest prevalence of smokers is found among individuals aged 20 to 34.  Within this population, there are still 22.1% of women and 32% of men who smoke.

Between 2009 and 2010, a noticeable cloud formed over males aged 35 to 44 years: 18.4% of them smoked daily in 2009. This number climbed to 21.3% in 2010, a significant increase and the first since 2003.

Passive smoking at home

In Canada, among people aged 12 to 19 years, the percentage living with second-hand smoke in their homes in 2010 is 2/3 of the level of 2003; 14.9% of boys and girls aged 12 to 19 reported exposure to SHS at home.  That is a significant improvement since 2003 (23.4%), although not statistically different from 2009 (15.1%).

At 14.9%, the proportion of non-smoking adolescents exposed to SHS at home is now more than two-and-a-half times greater than the recorded average for all the non-smokers aged 12 years and older (5.9%).

Despite the progress made since 2003, involuntary smokers at home are still more numerous among Canadian adolescents than active smokers (439,600 compared to 375,500 young people).

SHS in vehicles

The Canadian Community Health Survey also includes questions about exposure to second-hand smoke in vehicles, in the previous month.  In 2010, 13.4% of non-smokers aged 12 to 19 years reported such exposure in vehicles. The figure was 22.3% in 2003, so again, there was an improvement.

In British Columbia and Ontario, smoking was forbidden in any vehicle carrying a person aged 15 years or less (16 years or less in Ontario) for all of 2010.  Interestingly, those two provinces are the only ones in which non-smokers aged 12 to 19 report exposure to SHS in vehicles at rates significantly lower than the Canadian average. 

However, it may be too early to imply a causal relationship between legislation and behaviour.

In Prince Edward Island, where all the passengers under 19 years old were covered by a similar ban for all of 2010, involuntary smoking in vehicles reported by the young population was not statistically different from the national rate.  In Alberta, where no such ban exists, the rate is not significantly different from the Canadian rate for the same population. 

In New Brunswick, despite legal protection for passengers under 19 years old that came into force in January, 2010, the exposure to SHS in the previous month reported in 2010 by non-smokers aged 12 to 19 (22.9%) was significantly higher than the Canadian average.  Saskatchewan and Quebec are the two other provinces with rates significantly higher than the Canadian average, with respectively 18.6% and 16.2% of their non-smoking population aged 12 to 19 who reported being exposed in the previous month to SHS in vehicles in 2010. In Saskatchewan, a smoking ban to protect passengers under age 16 came into effect in October 2010.  In Quebec, as in Alberta, children and teenagers are legally protected against SHS in the same places where adults are.

The way the provincial laws protecting young people from smoking in vehicles are enforced is not yet well documented.

By Pierre Croteau


Warnings adopted


Following our articles in Tobacco Info No. 6, pages 1 to 3 and 15 regarding the next tobacco warnings,note that the new regulations were finally adopted from June 20 to 23 by the federal government.  Warnings will therefore appear on packs no later than December 2011 at the manufacturers or importers level, and by March 2012 at the retail level. This is a welcome victory for tobacco control specialists and for Health Canada.